Going to college for four years might work for younger students who are still being supported by their parents, but adults usually need to get out of school and into a job quickly. Technical schools in Texas let you do just that. They offer certificates, career diplomas and associate degrees that take no more than two years to complete in most cases.
The National Skills Coalition reports 56 percent of Texas jobs require so-called middle skills but not a bachelor's degree. In other words, these are jobs requiring some training or an associate degree. However, only 42 percent of workers are qualified for these jobs. That means lots of opportunity for people with the right skills to launch a career in Texas.
Wind turbine service technicians, phlebotomists, manicurists and medical assistants have some of the fastest growing jobs in Texas, according to employment website CareerBuilder. None of these require a bachelor's degree, and they are just a small sample of the types of jobs you can get by attending vocational schools in Texas.
Why is Texas Good for Vocational Schools?
Texas is a big state that offers big opportunities to its workers. Manufacturing, energy and computer technology are some of the region's target industries, and you'll find large employers like Texas Instruments, Dell and Peterbilt doing business here.
Houston is home to NASA mission control. Dallas has American Airlines. And the hospitality industry in Austin has been blowing up in recent years with a trendy food scene, SXSW music festival and the city's overall welcoming and laid-back vibe.
All this means plenty of jobs for workers with a variety of skills. You don't need a Ph.D. or even a bachelor's degree to work in Texas. Trade schools in Texas offer programs that can be completed in as little as a few months and lead to a rewarding line of work.
Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers in Texas
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in Texas
Trade schools in Texas typically offer an affordable higher education. While average tuition and fees at a public university in the state is $9,510 for residents in 2019-2020, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the average price tag at a community college is only $2,848 for in-district students. Those who study online can further lower the cost of their education by cutting out transportation and room and board expenses.
There are also a number of ways to find financial aid in Texas. These can further lower the cost of your education. Some Texas education grants are limited to those studying at four-year schools, but other grants and scholarships for undergraduates in Texas are open to those attending trade schools as well.
Below are several financial aid programs to explore. In most cases, you'll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility. For more about the FAFSA and how to apply for financial aid in Texas, check out our financial aid guide.
- Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Program (TEOG): Open to those attending a public two-year college in the state, these Texas education grants are based on financial need. The maximum award for the 2019-2020 school year is $5,876.
- Texas Public Educational Grant Program (TPEG): Like TEOG, the TPEG offers assistance to public college and university students based on their financial need. Each school sets its own award amount.
- Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program: If you're interested in serving the country after graduation, you could have your entire cost of attendance - up to $4,000 - covered by a Texas Armed Services Scholarship. The scholarship goes to high-achieving students who enroll in an eligible ROTC program and commit to four years with the Guard Service or Armed Forces.
Initiatives for Vocational Students in Texas
Skilled trade and vocational workers are essential to many industries. To support students pursing these occupations at technical schools in the nation and in Texas, the federal government and state have enacted a number of funding and policy initiatives, such as the following:
- The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 is a federal law intended to support the success of career and technical students. For fiscal year 2019, Texas was awarded $111.4 million in Perkins funding for its vocational programs.
- Established by the state legislature, the Texas Science, Engineering, Math and Science (T-STEM) Challenge Scholarship Program provides money to community colleges and technical schools in Texas to fund merit-based scholarships for those studying in STEM fields.
Texas Policies That Benefit Vocational Students
Beyond providing money to trade schools in Texas, the state has also launched several initiatives to help students successfully complete their education. One of the more notable examples:
- The Texas Success Initiative is intended to ensure all students entering a public institution of higher education meet college readiness benchmarks in reading, writing and math. Those that don't are provided opportunities to gain these skills which are necessary to successfully completing most degree and certificate programs.
- Texas has also created an inventory of industry-based certifications which includes professionally recognized certifications, the program of study aligned to the credential and the median salary of its corresponding occupation. This information is available on the Texas Education Agency website and is helpful for anyone who wants to research employment information before enrolling in a career college.
School-Specific Program Initiatives in Texas
Many schools also offer their own programs to support career students and encourage vocational studies.
- Many of the best trade schools in Texas offer dual enrollment options so students can earn credits toward a degree or certificate while still in high school. Eligibility for dual enrollment can vary by school. At South Texas College, for example, dual enrollment students can begin earning credits as early as the spring semester of their 9th grade year.
- Meanwhile, nine institutions participate in the Community College Petrochemical Initiative. Funded with grants from ExxonMobil, the initiative promotes petrochemical careers and training for jobs in the Houston-Galveston region.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Texas
For more about career and technical education in Texas, check out these online resources:
- Advance CTE is a nonprofit organization of state directors and leaders working to advance career and technical education. Here, you'll find information about Texas enrollment, funding and other CTE topics.
- The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) works to make higher education more accessible to Texas residents. Its goal is to have 60 percent of young adults hold some form of postsecondary credential by 2030.
- The THECB has put together the College for All Texans website which brings together information ranging from choosing a college to applying for financial aid in Texas.
Expert Advice on Vocational Education in Texas
To gain an insider's perspective on technical and vocational schools in Texas, and their respective degree programs, we reached out to Alicia Strieker, regional director for Manpower.
How do employers view vocational education, as opposed to a four-year degree?
Right now, competition for top talent is fierce, and an individual with the right skills and experience has many options. For some roles, skills and experience are more important than a four-year degree. Beyond that, some of the hardest positions to fill don't require a four-year degree. ManpowerGroup's 2015 Talent Shortage Survey found that skilled trades roles, drivers and technicians are among the top 10 hardest jobs to fill in the United States. While all require licensing, certification or training of some sort, none typically require a four-year degree.
What are the benefits or drawbacks to technical training or trade school?
Technical training programs and trades schools are a critical component of the educational system. They prepare students for career readiness, equipping them with a skill that will help them on a career path. Students need to know that these career paths, from welder to dental technician, offer marketable skills that bring long-term employment security at a time when job security is no longer a guarantee. It's time to remove the stigma and reinvent the image of technical training and associated technical careers. On the practical side, technical and trade school programs usually take less time and money than a four-year degree. However, there is less opportunity to easily shift gears if a student determines their path of study isn't a good fit.
What should students look for when considering a program?
In selecting training, students should look at the longevity of a program, the caliber of the instructors, cost in comparison to similar opportunities in the market, and the job placement rate among graduates. It can also be beneficial to talk with students that have previously completed the program.
Which industries are suited to vocational and technical education?
There are opportunities across many industries. Two of the most popular are manufacturing and healthcare. There are also opportunities in the legal industry, leisure and hospitality, transportation - really almost any industry you can think of.
How does Manpower view vocational or technical education when placing workers with clients?
Workers with vocational or technical education are a real asset for Manpower. That type of credential is appealing to our clients, and it gives the job seeker an edge over other candidates. Not only does it give evidence of a skill, it also demonstrates a person's commitment to learning and achieving goals.
Do you have any advice for someone hoping to enter the workforce through vocational or technical education?
The advice I give to anyone choosing their career path is find the overlap of a career that interests you and a skill that is in-demand and offers long-term employment opportunities and growth.